Raif Badawi is a young writer and activist who promoted discussion and dissent targeting the oppressive Saudi monarchy and Islamic Sharia law on his website Free Saudi Liberals. Raif was first arrested and released in 2008 for alleged apostasy, a conviction of which carries an automatic death sentence. In 2012, Badawi was convicted of “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and again faces a possible conviction of apostasy. A sentence of 1000 lashes, 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for what amounts to blogging has sparked an international outcry for Raif’s freedom led by Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar. Haidar, who found asylum in Canada with their three children, continues to work for Raif’s freedom citing great concern over his declining health and seemingly imminent death in Saudi captivity. In recognition of Raif’s struggle and efforts to bring progressive thought to the region, Badawi has received numerous humanitarian awards including successive Nobel Peace Prize nominations in 2015 and 2016.
Illustration by Johnny Selman
Saudi Arabia has a dark history of corporal punishment and enforcing strict Sharia Law. The repressive Absolute Monarchy of Saudi Arabia enforces criminal law punishments including public beheading, hanging, stoning, amputation and lashing. Serious criminal offenses include adultery, witchcraft and apostasy (the conscious abandonment of Islam). Raif’s portrait is constructed of 1,000 strokes of the pencil which represents his punishment of 1,000 lashes for being a blogger in Saudi Arabia.
2,149,690 km2 (12th)
Saudi Arabian, Saudi (informal)
Unitary Islamic absolute monarchy